by Peter Bogert
Laura and I had the opportunity to spend Thursday night through Saturday noon at Word of Life Inn in Schroon Lake, NY. We were attending a Pastor’s Conference there because of the generosity of some folks in our church, and we had a great time. Dr. Donald Hubbard, who at one time was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New York City (Stephen Olford), brought great wisdom and insight into the life of Peter in his four sessions. We also had a touch of snow on the ground Friday morning, combined with the cold weather and Christmas decorations around the Conference, treating us to a foretaste of our favorite season (next to baseball season for me, anyway!).
One of the things that I appreciated most was the presence of dozens of fellow pastors, many of them serving in the upper New York and New England areas – not known for being easy for the Gospel. Many of these men serve in churches of 50-75 and faithfully preach Christ year after year. In an age where size dictates success, they would not be deemed as successful. But I suspect that God looks at this much differently.
Dr. Hubbard told a story during his last session that I think speaks to the heart of all of us who preach and teach. I know that I have written before about the idea of wondering if we make a difference. His story – true from his own experience – was intended to encourage us to realize that God is at work in ways we may never know.
He told of serving in a small church in Ohio at the outset of his ministry, and seeing a young lady evidence a sense of conviction as the Gospel was preached one night in an evangelistic meeting. However, the infant that she was holding began to cry and she left the meeting early. Dr. Hubbard found out who the visiting woman was, and after finishing his regular job one afternoon the following week, he went to call on her. He had just arrived at the home – an apartment over a bar – when the woman’s husband and the husband’s brother also arrived, greeted him gruffly, and went into the kitchen. He began to share the Gospel with the woman, but was stopped by the husband, who threatened to throw him down the stairs if he didn’t leave.
Five years later, he was speaking in another church, and a man came to see him at the end of the meeting. It turned out that this was the brother-in-law of the woman, and he had overheard the Gospel during that brief time and had never been able to shake the words he had heard. He said that shortly after the visit five years before, the woman’s husband had been shot and killed. He, however, had come to talk about Christ.
Thirty years later Dr. Hubbard was invited to go back to his first church and preach. After the service he was approached by a woman who asked him if he remembered a young woman with a baby who had left an evangelistic meeting, and subsequent a visit to her home. Dr. Hubbard replied that he indeed did remember such a visit many years before. The young woman said that she was in fact the infant in that story, and that her mother had come to Christ and that she herself had become a Christian along the way as well and they were both serving the Lord.
I’ll gladly confess to a tear in my eye after hearing how our Sovereign God used the words of a young pastor who probably felt that they had amounted to nothing, and he encouraged us to remember that we don’t always see the results of our ministry in the lives of our people.
So be encouraged, friends. What you did this morning in preaching God’s truth is something God can and will use in His way. Let’s keep at it, working hard in the Gospel, for God’s glory!
Peter Bogert is a pastor and a blogger. He writes on the blog “Stronger Church”